So, you have graduated—Congrats! You have spent your life, so far, working up to this moment. It is an exciting time full of possibilities…and stress. Much of the way your life used to function is going to change, and while that is not a bad thing it is definitely a hard transition.
It is ok to feel the graduation blues. I remember that moment of walking across the stage full of excitement, smiling from ear-to-ear, and then walking into my bedroom, looking around, and it hit me—a crushing sense of loss. Yes, this is what I had been working towards my whole life. Yes, I was on the way to accomplishing my goals, achieving my dreams but this part of my life was now over. It was something I wasn’t prepared for. The graduation blues are something that hit both the graduate and parent alike—while different in the way they play out, both are seeing a part of their life come to an end.
So, what do we do? How can we help ourselves through this exciting, yet difficult time?
1.) Make a plan—As you would with any big change, you need to prepare for it. If you are the parent, and your child is moving out of the house—what fun thing can you do with more time? Or how can you use your child’s old bedroom to make a craft room or reading space? For the student—where are you going to go after school? Find a job? Take a trip? Take a good hard look at the months after graduation and decide what you will do with that time. Give yourself something to look forward to, to focus on.
2.) Keep your eye on the future—Maybe you haven’t landed that dream job just yet, don’t worry these things take time. Think about where you want to be by the end of the summer and do something each day to get there—whether it is job hunting, or finding an internship/volunteer position to help build your resume. Or, maybe it is googling other areas and positions in the same field to help get you additional experience, and to make the right connections.
3.) Know that you are not alone—Talk to your friends who are in the same boat as you. Many of them are struggling with the same things you are and together you can support each other and reduce anxiety. Not to mention, friends can be great resources when it comes to landing your future career.
4.) Be realistic—Very few people step out off of the stage with the job they want. It is ok to go back to waiting tables or working at a coffee shop while you hunt for what fits. Don’t expect everything to be waiting for you. You will have more work ahead but you will find what you are looking for, just keep trying and using the tools you learned in school.
5.) Take care of you—Now is not the time to forget about your health. Make sure you are getting sleep, eating right, exercising, and taking breaks when things feel overwhelming. Now is a great time to learn more about yourself. Take some time to try a new extracurricular activity. Get involved in your neighborhood, or professional organizations. Do things that make you happy. Rome was not built overnight, and nothing good will come of you being overwhelmed and overworked.
There is no doubt this time is hard, but give yourself some credit for what you have already accomplished. Take a look every once and while and think about where you started—you have come a long way! As Dr. Seuss wrote —you are off to great places, today is your day.
Author: Alison Pidgeon, LPC
Alison is the Founder and CEO of Move Forward Counseling, a boutique private practice for women with three locations in Lancaster County, PA. She is passionate about reducing the stigma related to accessing mental health services. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.